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MEMORIES are our modern fairy tales, the fables of the Brothers Grimm reimagined from the perspective of the brave boy who, in spite of everything, avoided the fate of being cut, cooked and served to the family for dinner. What the writer of memories knows is what the readers of Grimm intuit: the loving father and the evil stepfather may actually be the same person seen in successive moments and in different lights. And so the autobiographer is faced with the daunting challenge of describing the narrow escape from being baked into gingerbread while at the same time trying to understand, forgive and even love the witch.
How appropriate, then, that the title of Jeannette Walls’ chilling memoir, “The Glass Castle”, evokes the architecture of fantasy and magic. The transparent palace that Walls’ father often promised to build for his children functions as a metaphor for another fanciful construction, the carefree facade with which two people who were (to say the least) inadequate to raise children camouflaged their struggle to survive in A world to which they were equally ill equipped.
REX WALLS was a gifted, seductive and deeply damaged man, whose “little drinking situation” prevented him from occupying the jobs (as a mining engineer and electrician) which he obtained through a dazzling mix of prevarication and charismatic charm. Rose Mary Walls, a painter, writer, free spirit and self-styled “excitement addict,” entertained certain convictions about life in general and parenthood in particular that, too predictably, helped pave the way for grief and disaster.
Jeannette Walls, her brother and two sisters, quickly discovered that her peripatetic and hard life was constantly moving from a desolate and dusty southwestern mining town created by a mother who believed that children should be left alone to reap the benefits Educational and immunological aspects of suffering. To another – there was no end to painful lessons to teach them. At age 3, Walls was burned so severely while boiling hot dogs that she required skin grafts and spent six weeks in the hospital, that her father “rescued” her, ignoring the alarmed cries of a nurse. The experience left Jeannette with physical scars and a troubling case of pediatric pyromania.
Memory offers a catalog of nightmares that children on the walls were encouraged to see as comic or exciting episodes in the family romance. Pursued by ticket collectors (or, as Rex, conspiratorial agents of F.B.I claimed), the family made such a rush of flight that Papa felt compelled to throw Jeannette’s recalcitrant cat out of the window of the car. Bitten by a scorpion, Lori, 4, suffered seizures. Jeannette had to wait in the desert sun until her parents realized she was missing; As she scraped the blood, her father plucked pebbles from her face with pliers.
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Jeannette was molested by a pervert neighbor. Later, when his parents decided to throw themselves on the thin mercies of Rex’s family, they moved to West Virginia, a vile village along a river that is distinguished by having, according to his father, “the highest level Of fecal bacteria from any river in North America “- where Jeannette groped for an uncle. A visit to the zoo ended when Rex and his daughter arrived inside the cheetah’s cage to pet the giant cat, while a family vacation erupted in flames as Dad’s dad burned the Christmas tree on fire with his lighter.
Along the way, the children enjoyed a characteristically idiosyncratic version of home-based education. His mother taught them the reading and health benefits of drinking unpurified ditch water, while his father explained to him “how we should never eat the liver of a polar bear because all the vitamin A in it could kill us.” His gun, How to shoot Mama’s bow and arrows, and how to throw a knife through the blade so that it fell into the middle of a target with a satisfactory blow. ” Walls recalls that “when I was 4, I was pretty good with Dad’s gun, a big six-round black revolver, and I could hit five of six beer bottles at 30 paces … It was fun. We are sure to suggest something about our educational system that every time the Walls kids went to school they turned out to be academically ahead of the local kids, who tormented them by their strange rarity.